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Gig EconomyKevin Hong, a 2014 graduate of the Management Information Systems concentration of the PhD program at the Fox School of Business and an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, recently received a $120,024 grant to research bias and health issues in online “gig economy” platforms. The grant, awarded by the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will provide Hong with funding for two years to research how online labor platforms, that connect prospective employees with employers, are shaping the economy and influencing the health of participants.
The gig economy, which encompasses various freelance and temporary employment opportunities and is worth billions of dollars, is the future of the labor market. “It is important to understand how participants in gig economy platforms make decisions and how such decisions affect their health, as these platforms promise to become the future workplace for hundreds of millions of citizens,” said Hong.

Hong’s intersectional analysis of online gig economy platforms also seeks to identify gender and racial biases in the hiring process, while analyzing the health implications of technology-based employment. For many participants in the gig economy who jump from job to job, health insurance is not an option, and part of Hong’s research grant focuses on access to health insurance and how health issues are addressed in an economy that is increasingly shifting towards short-term employment. “Understanding health-related challenges faced by these workers will help us prescribe policy suggestions for online labor platforms to inform platform design,” said Hong.

Aside from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, Hong recently received Arizona State University’s esteemed W.P. Carey Faculty Research Award, the first time a non-tenured, tenure-track faculty member has received the award.

Hong attributes his success to the intimate advisor-student relationship he had as a PhD student at Temple. Indeed, his current research is in part inspired by his research at the Fox School of Business, where he partnered with Dr. Paul Pavlou on a project, in collaboration with Freelancer.com, to publish two articles about their project in Information Systems Research.

“It is fair to say that without Paul’s effort in mentorship and guidance, none of my achievements would be possible.”Hong also notes that the academic rigor and exposure to different research methodologies during his time at Fox gave him the tools necessary to succeed. Hong’s seamless transition from PhD student to accomplished professor and researcher is a testament to his intellect and work ethic and reflects the high caliber of Fox PhD graduates.

Jay I. SinhaDomino’s Pizza has cultivated 10 million Facebook followers. Target’s page has collected 20 million. And Nabisco’s Oreo cookie page exceeds 40 million Facebook likes.

Such large numbers demonstrate a shift toward social media marketing and the expanding role of commercial branding in today’s online world, according to Dr. Jay I. Sinha, an Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Sinha’s latest research publication, “The Risks and Rewards of Brand Personification Using Social Media,” which appeared in the Boston Globe and MIT Sloan Management Review, digs into social media’s role in rewriting the consumer-producer relationship for today’s top brands. More than 92 percent of marketers responded in 2014 that social media marketing is important for their businesses, and 80 percent indicated these efforts increase traffic to their websites, Sinha noted.

“Social media marketing is the new big thing,” Sinha said. “It allows a company to stay close to its customers, being responsive, engaging them, and evolving with them through time.”

Tweeting its core values or responding to Facebook comments about a new product gives a company a human-like presence, Sinha said. This personification, he added, deepens consumer loyalty and buyer-conversion rates, or the number of consumers making online purchases. So whether it’s an international company like Domino’s Pizza, or a hyper-local grocery store chain, photographs, hashtags, and followers are a part of the new normative advertising pattern.

“In the past, a satisfied customer typically told three other people, while a dissatisfied customer griped to 11 people,” Sinha said. “Nowadays, each has the potential to tell the entire world – by virtue of being on social media.

The globalization of online marketing, to Sinha, emphasizes the need for well-written, interesting and visually appealing content. He indicates Whole Foods’ strategy on Instagram that focuses on striking food photography with the use of no captions, while Target uses #tbt, or ThrowbackThursday, to promote its 1980s-inspired fashion line.

Sinha notes the line between trendy and offensive, however, can be a tipping point.

“Firms should not regard social media as the space where they can emulate private individuals and espouse extreme viewpoints, launch attacks against business rivals, or castigate those who post negative reviews,” he said. “This is off-putting and unprofessional.”

To diminish the chance for error, using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest as primary social media platforms is enough, Sinha indicated, as many users are engaged with just two or three of those sites. He also urged firms to cultivate the smartphone app market with which millennials, or those between the ages of 18 and 35, are engaged. YouTube, he continued, is a way to corner members of the baby-boomer generation who aren’t as engaged on Facebook or Twitter.

Expanding on social media brand personification, Sinha said he is currently researching the “culture-jacking” phenomenon, which refers to a company’s attachment of itself to a trending topic in order to increase followers. Companies’ successes with this tactic, Sinha noted, is not foolproof, as there are several documented missteps.

“All of this shows that companies need to use social media with proper judgment and planning, and steer clear of topics that may be remotely controversial,” Sinha said.

Photo of Brad Greenwood
Brad Greenwood

The inspiration for his co-authored research paper, Brad Greenwood said, materialized rather organically.

“I was in the backseat of an UberX vehicle,” Greenwood said, “and I wrote myself a cell phone note: ‘Call Sunil about writing an Uber paper.’”

According to research by Greenwood and Sunil Wattal, professors at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the introduction of UberX, a low-cost, ride-sharing service, has led to the reduction of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities in California.

Their research findings have been featured widely in mainstream national and international media outlets, including Newsweek, Fox News, Forbes, Canada’s Globe and Mail, Britain’s Daily Mail, Quebec’s La Presse, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Tech Times, and others. Their working paper, titled, “Show Me The Way To Go Home: An Empirical Investigation of Ride Sharing and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Homicide,” is under review for publication in an academic journal.

Uber is a mobile-app-based service through which consumers can call for transportation to and from any destination. The system requires credit card registration prior to usage, which means no physical money changes hands in the transaction. Available in more than 50 countries, Uber’s popularity has soared recently, and an August 2015 report from Reuters suggests that Uber’s bookings in 2016 could exceed $26 billion.

Greenwood and Wattal are believed to have written the first academic paper investigating the effects of Uber on reducing alcohol-related vehicular homicides.

“The issue is timely and fresh. Everyone is talking about Uber,” said Wattal, an Associate Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at Fox.

Photo of a cell phone“There was evidence that Uber could be linked to such decreases in fatalities, but the question as to whether it could be tied together rigorously, and under certain circumstances, wasn’t yet known,” said Greenwood, an Assistant Professor of MIS.

Using publicly available data obtained from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Report System, for a period between January 2009 and September 2014, Greenwood and Wattal analyzed reports that included the blood-alcohol content of the driver, contributing factors like weather, speed, and environmental factors, and the number of parties involved in the accidents. Greenwood and Wattal said they chose to review California’s data because Uber is headquartered in San Francisco, and the ride-sharing service has been available in that state longer than in any other.

In their research, they found that alcohol-related deaths decreased by an average of 3.6-5.6 percent in cities where UberX service, the least-expensive service offered by Uber, is available. They also found limited evidence of change in conjunction with the use of Uber Black, the most-expensive service, which requires a luxury vehicle.

Other findings from the co-authored research paper include:

  • The effects of UberX on the number of alcohol-related fatalities took hold, on average, from nine to 15 months following Uber’s introduction to a particular city, “after Uber has built up a network of customers and drivers in that marketplace,” Greenwood said.
  • There was little to no effect in periods of likely surge pricing, a system that allows Uber to increase the cost of the services rendered dependent upon the consumer demand.
  • There was no effect between Uber and overall deaths, indicating that the entry of Uber is not making roads more dangerous for sober people.
Photo of Sunil Wattal
Sunil Wattal

For Greenwood, who has previously studied the societal benefits of technologies, and Wattal, who has researched online crowdfunding and peer-to-peer economies, their research interests overlapped, which made this project a natural choice on which they could collaborate. Unsurprisingly, their Uber research, which was independently funded, has generated requests for follow-up studies.

“We could try to replicate this study in the context of other states to see if the data is robust,” Wattal said, “but that could take considerable time, given that Uber is not available everywhere and that data is not as readily available in other states.”

“The options are endless for this type of work,” Greenwood said.

Photo of Dr. Xueming Luo
Dr. Xueming Luo

There’s a crucial strategy in online advertising that could revolutionize the way marketing agencies target online consumers, according to Fox School of Business researcher.

Dr. Xueming Luo studied how the strategy of competitor-poaching in online advertising influences consumer behavior. His most-recent publication on the topic was named Best Track Paper in Social Media & Digital Marketing at the 2015 American Marketing Association Winter Educator Conference Feb. 14 in San Antonio, Texas. It also received the conference’s honorable-mention distinction among all submissions.

Competitor-poaching in online advertising is responsible for why consumers can search the term “iPhone” using Google’s search engine, and corresponding ads for the Samsung Galaxy, Apple’s closest competitor, will appear, said Luo, Professor of Marketing, Strategy, and Management Information Systems. In his research, Luo uncovered that this strategy results in “clicks wasted,” as consumers glance over the competitor’s ads while remaining loyal to their initial preferences.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Luo said. “You can increase the impression of the competitor’s brand, but you cannot get consumers to purchase the poaching brand.”

This effect is partly seen because online consumers often develop specific brand loyalties by word of mouth or from reviews that sites like Amazon and Google provide, he said. Firms, Luo found, seek to continually build brand equity and increase positive socialization around their products in order to thwart attempts at online poaching.

“Online poaching impresses non-loyal customers, but fails to get more sales conversion from customers who have high loyalty to the brand under attack” Luo said.

Asking a consumer why they want or prefer a certain product or brand, and how price influences their decisions, can help clarify what incentivizes shoppers, Luo said. Marketing agencies should then target their competitor’s keywords with advertisements that include discounts, he suggested, to capture consumer curiosity.

“To switch consumers from a brand, you need a deeper incentive, such as a 30-percent discount,” Luo said. “If you do this the wrong way, you’ll waste your money. That method can only engender clicks, but not sales conversion.”

This research, Luo said, is a part of his greater interest in how online marketing interweaves big-data analytics, mobile strategies, and consumer insights. As founder of the Global Center on Big Data in Mobile Analytics, which is housed at the Fox School, Luo is interested in investigating how big data gleaned from search engines reveal varying patterns in the evolving sphere of online ads and mobile targeting.

“This is a great way to outsmart competitors and connect customers for superior company performance,” Luo said.

Dr. Maureen Morrin
Dr. Maureen Morrin

Could a spicy cinnamon scent persuade you to buy a Lexus? A professor from the Fox School of Business thinks so.

Dr. Maureen Morrin, Professor of Marketing at the Fox School, and a collaborative research team found a definitive connection between warm scents, consumer preference for luxury (more expensive items), and an increase in overall spending.

“If there is a warm scent in the room, people perceive the room to be smaller, and more full of other people,” Morrin said, citing the research findings of she and her team. “As a result, they feel a little less socially powerful. In order to restore their feeling of power, they prefer premium or luxury brands.”

Morrin and her research colleagues (Dr. Adriana Madzharov of the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Lauren Block of Baruch College) published the findings of their scent-power correlation research in the Journal of Marketing in January 2015. Their research also received mention in Science Daily. The study is believed to be the first of its kind to examine how temperature-related associations with smell affect our spatial perceptions and sense of self-importance.

For her most-recent study, Morrin and her colleagues exposed test subjects to two identical retail environments, and then subtly manipulated the scent in each atmosphere to be either warm, like spicy cinnamon, or cool, like minty menthol. They found that consumers exposed to the warm scents felt less socially powerful, finding the room crowded and overwhelming. To assuage their insecurities, they not only purchased more goods, but showed a preference for luxury items assumed to increase one’s social status, Morrin said. Conversely, those participants in cool-scented environments showed no inclination toward or against the luxury items, and bought less overall.

“Cool scents tend to work in an opposite direction than warm scents in terms of their impact on how powerful you feel within a given environment,” Morrin said.

Morrin, whose research interests include sensory processing and consumer decision-making, has always been interested in pioneering studies regarding the correlation between scent and consumer behavior.

The idea of warm and cool scents emerges from learned associations between foods and scents that can influence our conscious perceptions. When one smells menthol, the association is immediately with mint, which to our taste buds is cool, Morrin said, while vanilla and cinnamon evoke opposite reactions.

Morrin’s study revealed that not only can scent prime our emotions, it actually alters our idea of ourselves in space. Morrin’s test subjects reported increased crowding in rooms with warmer scents when the population remained constant. Conversely, the shoppers in cool-scented rooms reported increased spatial perception and a reduced number of people in the room.

Should retailers take advantage of these findings, Morrin said the market for luxury goods can be targeted acutely.

“Retailers of luxury goods might consider how their store’s atmospherics impact shoppers’ spatial perceptions,” she said. “Aspects of the retail environment that elicit power-compensatory consumer responses might lead to a greater preference for and purchasing of luxury brands.”

Morrin said she hopes to continue her investigation, and is currently working with several doctoral students from the Fox School to investigate other ties between scent and consumer behavior. The next step, she said, could be determining how ambient scents, especially those outside of our conscious awareness, could influence our purchase choices.

Youngjin YooThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a research team from Temple University a three-year grant totaling nearly $900,000 to fund a social-science project into the tracking of human behaviors through big data.

This marks the fourth NSF-awarded grant in the last five years that an interdisciplinary team of Temple faculty members has received to study the evolution of digital artifacts using large-scale digital trace data. The collaboration joins researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and College of Science and Technology (CST).

“When humans interact with digital systems, we leave a trace. Every call we make, every website we visit, it’s stamped with time and space information,” said Dr. Youngjin Yoo, the Harry A. Cochran Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School, and the research grant’s primary investigator. “What we do is constantly changing, and the trace data can act as DNA. What we focus on through this research is the repeat behaviors in humans that can be captured through digital trace data.

“Using those evolutionary patterns, we believe we can predict future behaviors of individuals and organizations. For example, by detecting the changes of commute patterns of individuals, we can predict overall public-transit systems’ performance in the future. Similarly, we want to be able to predict the changes in individual behaviors based on environmental changes.

Yoo said he and the grant’s co-principal investigators will study digitally enabled processes in complex digital systems, which “are like a living ecosystem, in that they constantly evolve,” he said. If patterns in the trace data represent what they call “behavioral genes,” Yoo said, alterations to those behavioral routines are “gene mutations.” Eventually, he said, the research team envisions developing software that will better predict the changes to those behavioral genes.

The benefits in doing so, according to Yoo, “are endless.” In a healthcare application, trace data could develop a pattern by which a patient sees a doctor or produce an average cost of care per patient. In an industry sense, such “gene mutations” could impact performance and cost.

“On the surface,” Yoo said, “all smart phones, for example, look the same. But everybody’s phone is different because of apps. It used to be that the product’s designer would make the product, and that was the end of the story. Now, it’s only the beginning. Millions of apps are downloaded. They’re changing constantly.

“Our argument is that, particularly in digital space, innovation never remains the same. It constantly changes and takes different forms.”

The research team includes: Yoo; Dr. Sunil Wattal, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School; Dr. Zoran Obradovic, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Data Analytics at CST; and Dr. Rob Kulathinal, Assistant Professor of Biology at the College of Science and Technology.

The NSF-awarded research grant runs through Jan. 31, 2018.

The way a brain functions has been a source of human curiosity throughout time. Over the past few decades, researchers have used a number of neuroscience methods including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a means to achieve a more-thorough understanding of how a human brain works.

The Center for Neural Decision Making (CNDM) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been at the forefront of this area, with research focused on integrating information from different methodologies to better understand human decision making.

Prior to the Academy of Management annual meeting, held in Philadelphia, the CNDM co-hosted a workshop with the Technology and Innovation Management group at MTEC, ETH Zurich on July 31 at Temple University. The workshop, titled, “Defining a Role for Neuroscience in Strategic Management,” provided a forum for leading researchers in the field of management to explore the use of methods in cognitive neuroscience in their research., by including both practical demonstration of some methods and presentations about designing and analyzing fMRI studies.

“There’s a lot of potential to improve our fMRI training methods and expand on our current practices. I want to help improve our teaching methodology and explain why it is that we use fMRI,” said Dr. Daniella Laureiro-Martinez, of ETH Zurich. Laureiro-Martinez made the conference’s first presentation, which included discussions about how to design an fMRI study and work within the limitations of the scanning environment.

“People often underestimate the nuances of designing an fMRI experiment,” said Dr. Vinod Venkatraman, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Fox School of Business and Associate Director of the CNDM. “When dealing with neurophysiological signals, it becomes increasingly difficult to block out the noise and focus on the desired signals. A good experimental design is one that eliminates most prejudices unrelated to the task of primary interest. Because conducting an experiment using fMRI technology is expensive and timely, having a good experiment design could prevent wasting time or money on ineffective studies.”

Despite the fact that fMRI technology has come a long way since its first use in the 1990s, there are improvements that can be made. Crucially, discussions in the conference focused on how these developments can be used to inform research in other areas like strategic management. Discussions also centered on ethical considerations and consequences of neuroscience experiments for managers.

The CNDM team and the Fox School of Business aim to be at the forefront of the area of applied neuroscience, extending findings from basic neuroscience to more applied areas in Business. They are continuing to find new ways to improve how to make study results more palatable and how more can be learned about the human brain and consumer behavior. The ultimate goal is to expand their work in the industry, helping companies understand how and why you would do a study on the human brain.

“Hopefully our future holds more fruitful collaborations with corporations and industry partners, taking our academic knowledge and studies and applying it to their practical use,” said Khoi Vo, Senior Research Associate at the Center for Neural Decision Making. “We hope to provide them with the necessary data, as well as the education and tools to understand and apply it to real-world decisions.”

 

Human beings are constantly engaging the five senses. But how does this sensory experience impact a consumer’s choice behavior?

This question was explored at the Fox School of Business’ first-ever sensory marketing conference, Understanding the Customer’s Sensory Experience. The conference was held on June 5th and 6th, at Alter Hall, home of Temple University’s Fox School of Business and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The conference focused on the nature of the five human senses, their role in affecting consumer behavior and emotion, and their application within a range of settings, including product and service design.

Fox School of Business marketing professor Maureen Morrin and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management professor Daniel Fesenmaier co-hosted the event.

Attendees included marketing and tourism research experts, doctoral students studying within these disciplines, executives of marketing firms, and industry professionals responsible for developing and improving the consumer experience.

“One of the main goals was to bring together both academics and practitioners who are interested in sensory marketing,” Morrin, Director of the Fox School of Business’ Consumer Sensory Innovation Lab, said. “Just getting industry professionals involved and having them see what we’re working on and researching, and to see what their problems are, I think, is helpful.”

At least one conference attendee plans to take advantage of the partnerships the conference established.

“It was extremely stimulating to bring together academics, people from [the] industry and specialists within each category,” Stephen Gould, a marketing professor at Baruch College, said. “As a professor, I plan to follow up with at least one of the industry presenters who I met at the conference.”

The conference was sponsored by the Fox School of Business, the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, and the National Laboratory for Tourism and eCommerce.

Events included a corporate panel led by executives from firms including Mane USA, Scents Marketing, ScentAir, and HCD Research. Another panel, composed of academic research laboratory directors, led discussions on how they established, operate, and fund their laboratories.  Numerous research presentations were given, with topics ranging from multisensory processing, to product and packaging development.

Conference attendees left with many new ideas, thanks to the different perspectives offered by the presenters. Adriana Madzharov, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, felt that the combination of research presentations, corporate panels, and research laboratory discussions offered a unique and fulfilling experience.

“The conference presented a perfect combination and balance between these three very different approaches to studying sensory customer experiences,” Madzharov said. “Personally, the amount of knowledge and valuable contacts that I acquired in such a short time during the conference makes it for me the best professional experience so far.”

Megan Whelan

Seeing is believing, but smellizing – a new term for prompting consumers to imagine the smell of a product – could be the next step toward more effective advertising.

Researchers came to this conclusion through four studies of products most of us would like to smellize: cookies and cake.

Professor of Marketing Maureen Morrin of Temple University’s Fox School of Business co-authored Smellizing Cookies and Salivating: A Focus on Olfactory Imagery to examine the impact imagining what a food smells like would have on consumer behavior.

“Before we started this project, we looked for print ads that asked consumers to imagine the smell of the product, and we found none,” Morrin said. “We think it’s because advertisers don’t think it’ll actually do anything.”

But researchers found that smellizing — imagining a smell —increased consumers’ desire to consume and purchase advertised food products.

Consumers’ response to advertised food products was measured over several studies that looked at the effect of smellizing on salivation, desire and actual food consumption. The researchers found that imagining what a tasty food smells like increases these types of responses only when the consumer also sees a picture of the advertised product.

Participants who looked at print advertisements were prompted by questions such as: Fancy a freshly baked cookie?; Feel like a chocolate cake?; and Feel like a freshly baked cookie? Look for these in a store near you.

Morrin found that these types of headlines had a positive impact on desire to consume the product, if they were accompanied by a call to also imagine the smell of the food. This positive impact was strongest when the image of the product could be seen at the same time study participants imagined the smell.

According to the study, olfactory imagery processing is different from that of the other senses, especially vision.

“It has been shown, for example, that although individuals can discriminate among thousands of different odors and are reasonably good at detecting odors they have smelled before, they are quite poor at identifying the odors they smell,” the study said. “That is, individuals often have difficulty stating just what it is they happen to be smelling at any particular moment, unless they can see the odor referent.”

This may be why a picture is so important in activating the effects of smellizing.

When asked (versus not being asked) to imagine a scent with a visual, participants’ salivation increased by .36 to .39 grams in two of the studies. In another study, when asked to imagine a scent with a visual, participants consumed 5.3 more grams of the advertised cookies. These effects depended on seeing the advertised food while imaging its smell.

The researchers also found that actually smelling the advertised products was even more effective on the various measures of consumer response than merely imagining the smells. But it’s not always feasible to present consumers with product odors in advertisements.

According to Morrin, advertisers are not adequately tapping into the power of the sense of smell when developing promotional messages to encourage consumers to buy their products.

Morrin’s study, co-authored with Aradhna Krishna of the University of Michigan and Eda Sayin of Koç University in Turkey, appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

—Alexis Wright-Whitley 

As consumers, we may not realize how much our senses influence the type of decisions we make every day.  But studying the relationship between sensory perception and consumer behavior has implications for marketers and businesses as they can implement strategies to make an experience enjoyable and memorable.  In the same way many establishments use ambient scenting to improve the mood of consumers, studying sensory perception may lead to better understand shop lifting propensity and leniency when evaluating others’ moral behavior.  Sensory input is also valuable to understand consumer response towards specific flavors that could strengthen the will power of those following strict diets.

Making decisions is a central human activity that is fundamental to the life of individuals, organizations and society. What car you choose to purchase, what person you choose to marry, what politician you vote for, where you chose to invest—all of these are important decisions that affect your life. There are hundreds of books on the market offering advice on decision-making strategies. However, the more fundamental (and ultimately more essential) question is: what is your brain actually doing when you make a decision? And what more can we learn about decision-making by looking under the hood and into the brain? Answers to these questions have far-reaching implications for all aspects of our society.